From the ‘clean-girl‘ aesthetic championed by Matilda Djerf, its transition into the ‘rockstar’s girlfriend’ aesthetic to the most recent aesthetic of all ‘mob wife’, microtrends have reigned supreme on the internet for months. Yet, what insights can they offer us about consumer culture and its influence on shaping our identity?
If you find it challenging to stay on top of trends, you’re not alone, and it’s not a sign of being out of touch or too old. The internet has been generating trend cycles at an ever-accelerating pace for years, with their longevity diminishing alongside our shrinking attention spans. Trends that would have endured for years are now swiftly deemed outdated in a matter of days. While this breakneck speed might be overwhelming for consumers, it proves advantageous for businesses, as it compels consumers to continually make new purchases. This marketing model has thrived on TikTok.
Aside from the problematic nature of this rapidly moving trend cycle due to its reliance on fast fashion, and the obvious issues of sustainability, design theft and unfair labour, it leads me to question: can personal style exist in an era of TikTok aesthetics?
On a platform where popularity is rewarded over originality, we are witness to an abundance of influencers all wearing a different variation of the same outfit. Repeatedly, beauty influencers and self-proclaimed “fashion experts” endorse products that their followers purchase based on the influencer’s seal of approval, often overlooking the fact that the endorsement is a paid transaction. The tag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has generated numerous videos as individuals eagerly join in – a fitting example of our desire to keep up with the unsustainable pace of these micro trends.
The excessive options of trends is suffocating, and leaves no room for experimentation or intuition. Presently, a number of us shape our identities, whether intentionally or not, based on the things we consume. The adage “you are what you buy” holds true, as our patterns of consumption have evolved into a form of signalling. Each purchase becomes a part of a game where everything we buy is intended to convey something about our identity or the persona we aspire to embody.
These trend cycles fight to remain relevant and strive to stay at the forefront of originality, yet they paradoxically streamline individuality into a curated assortment of products available on Amazon Storefronts. Distinct “-core” or “girl” aesthetics are formed and are destined to eventually overflow charity shops and contribute to landfill within a year.
This abundance of aesthetics is designed to give us the illusion of agency, when in reality we are conforming to yet another current in this sea of trends. We can choose between the rockstar girlfriend or cottagecore girls, but really it is only the illusion of choice that we are offered. This abundance and lack of choice only add to the challenges of finding a personal style while grappling with the constant need to keep up with the latest trends.